A Case Study On Photographer Tim Wolcott - Fine Art Landscape ...


A Case Study On Photographer Tim Wolcott - Fine Art Landscape ...

A Case Study On Photographer Tim Wolcott

© Tim Wolcott

Tim Wolcott

One Step Closer To Perfection

“I had expected the P45 would

have lost some of its performance

edge when I returned to the

studio, but it worked spectacularly.

It’s the kind of equipment that you

can trust under the most extreme

conditions, and in this business,

that’s priceless.”

Tim Wolcott

A cAse study on

tim Wolcott

October 2007

Of the nearly 50 photographers who trekked to Antatica early

this year with the Michael Reichmann Antarctica Photgraphic

Expedition, Tim Wolcott was the only one who makes his living

entirely from sales of his fine art prints. The 20-day trip began in

Ushuaia, Argentina at the tip of South America and continued to

the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Wolcott was planning to produce fine art prints which at 40x50

had to be sharp, exciting and perfect. “When you make a fine

art print,” he explained to us recently,“that’s where things get

picky and technical. “My attitude is, if it’s not good enough for a

museum exhibit, then there’s not much sense in shooting it.”

Fine art photography is one of the fastest growing markets in the

world, and yet today, there are only a few photographers who

shoot at this level and fewer who shoot Fine Art Photography

around the world, outside of the studio. The expedition tested

men and equipment and highlighted just how essential digital

technology has become to the art of photography.

© Tim Wolcott

© David Humphreys

A cAse study on

tim Wolcott

October 2007

“If I’d had to rely on film, the Antarctica trip would have been

an absolute nightmare”, Wolcott said. “-Virtually impossible.

Everything there required at least 9 stops of light. There was

good shadow detail, but at that point, you were already past

your limitations for what was possible to capture in film.

Wolcott’s transition from film to digital media

Wolcott tells the story about being up in Yosemite for a week’s

shoot. One day he came upon a spectacular scene. All he had

to do was waiting for the light to hit just right. So he waited

there; waited and waited for hours in cold drizzle for the light.

He got the shot and counted the trip a success; but later he

learned from his lab that the film was defective. And everything

he’d shot that whole week was gone.

“After that, I got a loaner Phase One digital back camera – the

P45”, Wolcott said. “I took it up into the Dogwood grove on the

other side of my mountain, and captured these unbelievable

shots in very difficult lighting – under conditions that film could

never have captured. Right there and then I decided to buy the


“Antarctica was my second photo shoot with the Phase One

P45. Everything I’m showing under new releases on my site

www.artofnaturegallery.com was shot with that camera.

When asked if he was nervous about carrying the camera with

him on the Antarctica trip, he said he was more worried about

the uncertainties associated with traveling. More concerned

about losing it or having it stolen. He has a good insurance

policy and is used to carrying two bodies with him and one

back. He couldn’t imagine losing his gear, and he reported that

he was very careful. “I didn’t take any chances”, he said.

Wolcott says that shooting with the Phase One digital back

helped him realize a vision that he just couldn’t shoot with film.

“Although you can see the scene with your naked eye,

with film, you have only 6 or 6.5 stops of light that you can

capture”, he said.

© Tim Wolcott

A cAse study on

tim Wolcott

October 2007

“For example, in my image, “Ballet of Light,” not only did I

carry highlights in the bright white clouds, but the detail in the

pine tree shadows held and didn’t turn black. Now I can shoot

more subject matter because the light is spectacular. It’s like

before; you only had three big brushes to paint a scene. Now I

have a whole bucketful of different kinds and sizes of brushes.

Now you can get a much wider variety of lighting conditions. I

© David Humphreys

have less to worry about, and I don’t have to compromise. I’ve

got 12 stops of light and I can hold all my colors.”

“The Phase One digital back takes you closer to controlling

what you want to see and capture as opposed to the

technology limitations dictating it, because it permits you to

work in a wider spectrum of light.

Wolcott is adamant that technology is not the “end all” answer,

but considers Phase One technology a significant solution

because it lets him see at what he characterizes as a “much

higher level.”

A cAse study on

tim Wolcott

October 2007

“Film limits not only the color spectrum you can capture but

also the lighting conditions you can shoot under,” he says.

“A lot of times the same light you would give up a lot or you’d

have to wait later in the day – sometimes your shoot would

have been ruined because the light would have moved too far.

Now, I just keep asking how much farther I can push it.”

Wolcott believes that it is critical to “shoot it right” with the

camera because you can’t fix lighting with software. He

explains that you can enhance colors. Digital software like

Adobe Photoshop is a great way to fix things that humans

have created – like telephone poles, for example. And

Capture One software is great for fine-tuning and enhancing

color. But the essential thing for Wolcott is seeing the light

and composition in the first place. In his opinion, any digital

software can help only after the image has been shot


“The word ‘illuminating’ is a great word for what I’d call Phase

One. It’s illuminating your mind. Allowing you to have more

personal control over what you can shoot than anything you

could have shot in the past. Even if the lighting is correct, you

couldn’t have shot it before. A lot of times you just would have

had to leave that shot.”

In Extreme Conditions

“In the beginning of the Antarctica trip we did some tours in

nasty weather, and I was pretty cautious; the shore landing

took down 1/3 of the gear. It was snowing and it was often

drizzling. At times it was below freezing. There were times

when you could barely feel your fingers. I carried a towel and

trash bags to protect against the snow and towels to dry off

the lenses. My battery froze once or twice. But I didn’t lose a

body or a lens the whole trip.

The Antarctica trip was the first time he said he had hand held

a camera as far back as he could remember. He thought

maybe the last time was when he was shooting wildlife at least

ten years ago.

A cAse study on

tim Wolcott

October 2007

© Tim Wolcott

“You didn’t have a choice being on a zodiac. But as long as you

use your same principles – I looked at image and had to

absolutely decide where I wanted my focus to start – I focused

for that so I could get a higher shutter speed and decided what

depth of field I wanted and that also helped increase my shutter


Wolcott brought with him into the cold and wet environment of

Antarctica an auto-focus camera and his lenses, but his

approach is to shoot “the old fashioned way and focus

everything by hand.” He finds that too often auto-focus will

decide where to focus a shot, and he believes that it should

be the photographer who dictates what and where the focus

should go.

“The main thing was trying to stop any kind of movement – and

because we were slowly drifting, I had to pick the precise time to

click the shutter. We were telling the boat driver what angle we

wanted and where we wanted to be and he was trying to

maneuver. I was on the bow of the boat because I had slowest

camera and I was shooting non auto focus. Behind me it was like

machine guns blasting with all the auto-focus cameras shooting.

A cAse study on

tim Wolcott

October 2007

Wolcott describes himself as “a manual guy” who was

choosing lenses and measuring everything.

© Tim Wolcott

“You don’t have the time to change lenses out there, so I chose

one to work with and asked the driver to get in where I wanted

him to be. Some people were shooting with lenses that were

too long – so you lost the depth of field when we were so close.

I found that wider lenses gave me more depth of field at a faster

shutter speed.”

“I didn’t want the icebergs to look small – I wanted to show

every nuance and their grand scale. When you’re looking up

and seeing a 100 foot high iceberg – beautiful shape and curves

– you want it to be awe inspiring. So with all the limitations:

moving zodiac, handheld, somewhat overcast light, you have to

adapt to it and understand what you’re shooting under and go

from there.”

“We were many times on this trip capturing nature at its most

intimate beauty. No doubt. When the sun was shining through

the clouds and you had these amazing shapes of icebergs, all

the pieces of the puzzle were there.”

A cAse study on

tim Wolcott

October 2007

“I selected the focus and hyperfocal distance of the scene,

mindful of what I was trying to convey in doing that. I was lining

up the composition, deciding what to carry into focus and where

I wanted it to drop off. And the Phase One P45 was up to task

every step of the way.”

“I had expected the P45 would have lost some of its performance

edge when I returned to the studio, but it worked spectacularly.

It’s the kind of equipment that you can trust under the

most extreme conditions, and in this business, that’s priceless.”

Contact information

Tim Wolcott


Phase One A/S

Roskildevej 39

DK-2000 Frederiksberg


Tel: +45 36 46 01 11

Fax: +45 36 46 02 22

email: info@phaseone.dk

Phase One U.S.

200 Broadhollow Rd., Suite 312

Melville, NY 11747

Tel: +1 (631) 547-8900

Fax: +1 (631) 547 9898

email: info@phaseone.com

Phase One Germany

Oskar-Jäger-Str. 160

50825 Köln


Tel: +49 (0) 221 54 02 26 - 0

Fax: +49 (0) 221 45 02 26 - 22

email: info@phaseone.de

Phase One Asia

1177 Nong, No. 16 - 1802

Yang Shu Pu Lu

Shanghai, 200082


Tel: +86 215 521 7746

Fax: +86 215 521 7747

email: lzm@phaseone.com


Phase One is a registered trademark of

Phase One A/S. All other brand or product

names are trademarks or registered

trademarks of their respective holders.

©2007 Phase One A/S.

Similar magazines